The US Indo-Pacific Command on Thursday revealed a prior close-call, dangerous incident between US and Chinese military aircraft. Specifically the direct aerial encounter from last week, now confirmed for the first time, disrupted the operations of a US Air Force spy plane while flying over international waters of the South China Sea.
The US military statement said a RC-135 Rivet Joint aircraft was intercepted by a Chinese PLA Navy J-11 fighter jet on Dec.21, with the Chinese aircraft having come within a mere 20 feet of the US surveillance jet, forcing the US plane to take quick evasive maneuvers.
The Indo-Pacific Command statement begins by describing that “On Dec. 21 a People’s Liberation Army – Navy J-11 fighter pilot performed an unsafe maneuver during an intercept of a U.S. Air Force RC-135 aircraft, which was lawfully conducting routine operations over the South China Sea in international airspace.”
“The PLAN pilot flew an unsafe maneuver by flying in front of and within 20 feet of the nose of the RC-135, forcing the RC-135 to take evasive maneuvers to avoid a collision,” it continues.
The US statement added: “The U.S. Indo-Pacific Joint Force is dedicated to a free and open Indo-Pacific region and will continue to fly, sail and operate at sea and in international airspace with due regard for the safety of all vessels and aircraft under international law. We expect all countries in the Indo-Pacific region to use international airspace safely and in accordance with international law.”
The Pentagon released video of the “unsafe intercept” over the South China Sea…
Dramatic video released by the Pentagon the same day shows the Chinese J-11 fighter come terrifyingly close to the American aircraft, as the footage taken by a US pilot directly from within the RC-135 cockpit shows.
These types of close proximity intercepts have happened before over waters off China, but sill remain very rare, and we should add serious – given the potential for aerial collision or incident at a moment US-China tensions are on edge especially over Washington’s defense support to Taiwan. One prior 2017 incident even involved Chinese fighters reportedly giving a US plane the “Top Gun treatment”, something the US pilot in this latest close-call was at least thinking…